International Yoga Day: Why Yoga Nidra can be a boon for your mental health
In the last few years, an increase in mental health disorders has been observed in the adult world population. World estimates for the prevalence of anxiety and stress disorders are significantly high due to the way we all are living with high pressure careers and demands, and are unable to get an outlet to release and relax. This has simultaneously pushed people towards looking for relaxation techniques. One such form that has caught attention is Yoga Nidra.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is a deep state of conscious rest, an ancient style of meditation that’s starting to go mainstream, is no longer reserved for ashram life or advanced yoga teacher trainings.
I like including it as an offering on the weekend or the end of the week for a complete state of relaxation and rest.
Yoga Nidra is often referred to as ‘yogic sleep’. Yog means ‘union’ and nidra means ‘sleep’. It is an inconsistent state of being between sleep and consciousness. It is conducive to deep emotional, mental and physical healing, meant to reprogram your brain and help in the process of self-exploration and self-actualisation.
It is a very specific type of guided meditation. A Yoga Nidra session is typically 30 minutes long.
Anything shorter would be like a Savasana usually done for cool down after yoga which isn’t long enough to enter a ‘rest and digest’ state and any longer than 45 minutes can be considered an advanced practice as not most of the people have that much concentration span as a beginner.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
1. Improved thought patterns and reduced stress levels.
2. Yoga Nidra practice improves your cognitive function in turn improving memory and concentration by creating space in the brain.
3. An essential step in guided meditation includes setting intentions for yourself. These intentions are referred to as ‘sankalpa’ – this is your deepest desire/intent and the goal you set for yourself at the beginning of the practice which helps boosting self confidence.
4. Yoga Nidra is highly effective for sleep disorders and helps treat disorders such as insomnia and sleep deprivation.
5. It is highly effective in balancing all the layers of the body – the emotional, mental and physical. And this helps in decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
6. It is also highly beneficial in improving menstrual irregularities.
7. It helps in having a good heart health by lowering blood pressure and strengthening the entire immune system.
How to perform this special meditation:
Before we get to know how to do it, I want to share a disclaimer. During the beginning of Yoga Nidra I usually like to inform the class to go with the flow of my voice, the ambient music and try to visualize whatever I am saying. Secondly, if at any point they feel the need to get distracted or open their eyes, they should just bring their concentration back to their breath.
You may feel cold or get chills during the process of Yoga Nidra which is very normal.
Yoga Nidra steps:
* Creating an intention, and lying flat on the back, with arms stretched out by the sides.
* Place a folded blanket or cushion behind your neck for support, and use another cushion or folded blanket under your knees for added comfort.
* Close your eyes.
* Repeat the intention three times clearly to start of with mentally.
* Take a couple deep breaths into the chest and the stomach, with emphasis on the deep inhalations and exhalation.
* Starting with your left side, rotate your awareness through all parts on that side of your body — limb by limb — in fairly quick succession. Follow this process: each finger, palm of the hand, back of the hand, hand as a whole, forearm, elbow, upper arm, shoulder joint, shoulder, neck, each section of the face starting from the crown then (forehead, eyes, eyelashes, nose, cheeks,lips, ear, throat, chest, side of the rib cage, shoulder blade, waist, stomach, lower abdomen, genitals, buttocks, whole spine, thigh, top and back of knee, shin, calf, ankle, top of foot, heel, sole, each toes.
* Be aware of your body as a whole.
* Repeat the rotation in the same process on the left side, ending with the whole body awareness.
* You will achieve an adequate level of relaxation.
* Continue to be aware of the whole body and the space surrounding it, feeling the stillness and peace.
* Reaffirm your initial intention three times.
* Mentally prepare to return to physical state and back to the room and consciousness
where you are.
* Gently move your toes and your fingers for a few moments, take a deep breath
* Gently open your eyes and come back to the present time and feel completely refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated!